It all started with a chain reaction of poems, I suppose.
It was Jamie who first felt the compulsive need to scribble down a poem one day, which then compelled my to write one of my own, perhaps out of curiosity if I could do it all. It had been quite a while since poetry was the subject of my interest or my writing, and my only memorable accomplishment in this area was winning a haiku contest in grade four. So, in short, it was something that I had not visited in a while, but I couldn’t help writing down some of my own metaphor-laden verses to see if I still had that grade four poetic flair. As it turns out, it was somewhat soothing to see words written down on paper again and it felt good to puzzle out all the ideas bouncing around in my head and turn them into something else. I think that there is some poetry that is meant to read, some that should be spoken, and, like Jamie, I found it especially interesting to write in this spoken-word style, or what some people know as slam poetry. So, as both Jamie and I continued to write and exchange some of our own poems and listen to various works of poetic giants like Shane Koyczan, the idea came up of continuing on with this project as an in-depth study, and I suppose that is where we are now.
For those of you that are not familiar with slam poetry, my own explanation is that it is free verse poetry with an emphasis on delivery and performance. Of course, this doesn’t really leave any boundaries for the writer, which is one of the reasons I was so attracted to this style, and I discovered early on that writing slam poetry is very different that writing haikus. I think that there is much more to it than just sounding good, but also to have a powerful effect on the audience; and through my (unhealthy?) habit of late-night watching of You Tube poetry performances, I discovered that there are a lot of ways to accomplish this. The use of rhythm, rhyme, volume, tone of voice, body language, all contribute to the style or the ambiance of a performed poem, and in most cases, poets will weave their own real life experiences in their writing. Sometimes they will do this by incorporating humour, while others use more tragic standpoints to captivate the audience. Either way, all of these things make for poems that are very different from each other, and throughout this project, I look forward to developing my own style and having the opportunity to perform my poetry in front of an audience.
Like I said before, slam poetry is meant to be performed, so instead of spending this entire project sitting inside wondering if my poetry is good, I decided to look around for slam poetry cafes in the area. Quite conveniently actually, a stumbled upon the Vancouver Poetry House website that holds slams every Monday night, youth slams landing on every fourth Monday. As I understand it, the Poetry House is a casual setting where poets can perform their works and then be ruthlessly critiqued by the audience (okay, maybe not to that extreme, but the performers are in fact scored). I intend on attending the youth slams for the entire project (January-May) and to gain some feedback and some on-stage experience. The next youth night is at the end of this month, just a little over a week away, and my original thought was to go as an audience member and look for a mentor and then I thought, what the heck, I might as well perform too. So, Jamie and I will be going to perform our poetry in front of 200 strangers. Nerve-racking, yes, but I do I have this kind of giddy excitement about the whole thing, despite the fact I don’t really know what to expect. I will not say much of the poem I have chosen to perform, but the Poetry House posts all the performances to You Tube, so I will include a link with my next blog post (that is to say, if I am still alive after all of this).
One of the upsides of performing at the Poetry House is that I will give any potential mentors a chance to view some of my work before they might decide to guide me through this project. I do believe that finding a mentor will be a challenge, but hopefully going to this poetry slam will increase my chances of finding someone who is interested. Jamie also came up with the slightly insane idea to try to contact Shane Koyczan for mentorship, which would be AMAZING if it actually followed through, but we don’t really know if he would actually do this (I will keep the whole mentorship situation updated on my blog).
So, I guess it is back to revision and writing for me, seeing as the Monday night of the 27th is fast approaching. I have found it extremely helpful to be able to share my poems with Jamie and some family members for suggestions and feedback, but I have discovered that it is ultimately up to the writer to make poetry that is honest. And as the last preparations are made before my first big performance, I want to keep in mind this idea of honest poetry, the kind of poetry that is communication, the very fabric of words and phrase themselves.
I’m not getting too poetic, am I?
To check out Jamie’s awesome blog, see the link below: